Rockwell continues testing Pro Line Fusion cockpit

 - October 29, 2009, 7:23 AM

Rockwell Collins has started flight trials of the synthetic-vision portion of the Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system in a company-owned Challenger 601, adding one of the last–and most highly anticipated–features to the new avionics system.

The milestone follows testing begun earlier this year aboard the Challenger and a Bombardier Global Express XRS that centered on evaluations of the Fusion cockpit displays, integrated cursor controls, radio tuning functions, flight management systems and autopilot. The start of synthetic-vision system (SVS) testing moves the program into a new phase as engineers hone the 3-D, computer-generated visuals to make the scenes they present as beneficial to pilots as possible.

“We’ve done a lot of human-factors research on our SVS displays to get them exactly right,” said Tim Rayl, senior marketing director at Rockwell Collins. “Much thought has gone into what we’re doing” to ensure the synthetic vision view enhances pilot situational awareness and meets Rockwell Collins’s original goal of providing “all-weather capability.”

The Global Express and Gulfstream G250 are the first business jets due to be certified with Pro Line Fusion when these programs reach fruition in 2011. Test rigs for both cockpits have been installed at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and at the OEMs’ respective headquarters. Software loads for SVS in the Global and G250 will be delivered shortly, according to Rayl.

In the Global series, Pro Line Fusion will be known as the Global Vision flight deck, while Gulfstream will brand the cockpit PlaneView 250. Design requirements for other Pro Line Fusion-equipped airplanes, including the Embraer Legacy 450 and 500 and Learjet 85, are currently being defined, according to Rockwell Collins.

Pro Line Fusion took to the air aboard a Global Express XRS for the first time in August, completing a five-hour initial test flight that originated at Bombardier’s Downsview test center in Toronto. The new cockpit will replace the Global Express XRS’s and Global 5000’s original Honeywell Primus 2000XP avionics, based on older CRT display technology. Rockwell Collins installed Pro Line Fusion on the left side of the cockpit in its Challenger in April, leaving a separate suite of Pro Line 21 avionics on the right side.

Fusion Features

Standard features of the new system include four LED-backlit 15-inch-diagonal displays, HGS-6000 head-up guidance system, enhanced- and synthetic-vision systems, Collins MultiScan weather radar, integrated flight information system, triple Waas-capable flight management systems and TSS-4100 traffic surveillance system with ADS-B capability. Eventually Rockwell Collins plans to merge the SVS and EVS views on the HUD and flight displays.

The compendium of advanced equipment in the Global series will finally give Bombardier a potent answer to the Honeywell-based Dassault EASy and Gulfstream PlaneView cockpits, which make heavy use of drop-down menus and cursor-control devices for flight planning and other functions. In the G250, Gulfstream is asking Rockwell Collins to design a cockpit interface that is quite similar to the look and feel of the avionics in its larger airplanes that fly with Honeywell Primus Epic-based avionics.

The Global Express is well into its flight-test regimen, while the G250 is about to start flight trials. The certification timeline for Bombardier’s Learjet 85, meanwhile, has been stretched to the right after last year’s collapse of Germany’s Grob, which was tapped to help design and build the prototype’s composite structure. Bombardier has started fresh on the design and publicly remains committed to delivering the first Learjet 85 in 2012.

Embraer, meanwhile, plans to start deliveries of the Legacy 500 in the second half of 2012 and the Legacy 450 in the second half of 2013. The customer timelines give Rockwell Collins a staggered lineup of programs that should help to ensure the company isn’t overwhelmed by overlapping certification work. Rockwell Collins will also supply Pro Line Fusion avionics in the Mitsubishi Regional Jet and Bombardier C Series airliners. The Citation Columbus, meanwhile, had been scheduled to enter production in 2012 with Pro Line Fusion before Cessna pulled the plug on the program earlier this year.

The Gulfstream G250 is the latest Pro Line Fusion airplane to enter the test phase after the twinjet’s rollout last month in Israel. The basic Plane-View 250 avionics system features three high-resolution 15.1-inch-diagonal LCD flight displays split into multiple windows that pilots interact with using a sidewall-mounted cursor-control device. Borrowing from the avionics philosophy in the new Gulfstream G650, two standby multi- function controllers installed in the glareshield will incorporate the G250’s standby instruments, display control and remote information display on a 5.3-inch LCD screen.

Dual flight management systems and graphical flight planning interfaces are standard in the G250, as is Collins’s MultiScan weather radar–a fully automatic radar that detects, analyzes and displays weather hazards from the nose of the aircraft to as far as 300 nm ahead. Dual integrated flight information systems provide electronic charts and enhanced maps on the main displays, while a system for controller-pilot datalink communications and graphical weather retrieval will also be standard.

Collins is also developing a surface management system for Pro Line Fusion that will incorporate highly detailed moving maps for larger airports. The system will show the airplane symbol maneuvering on taxiways and runways, as well as provide voice callouts for certain situations, such as if a crew tries to take off from the wrong runway. As an additional safety aid, the system will highlight the departure runway as entered into the FMS. Once ADS-B technology is installed in airplanes and airport ground vehicles, the system will show targets on the surface map.

SVS Development

Rockwell Collins has erected full Fusion test rigs at its headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to accommodate each of the versions of Pro Line Fusion just entering the certification pipeline. During a recent visit by AIN, engineering test work appeared to be proceeding well. Both versions of the cockpit are being put through batteries of testing, much of it aimed at eliminating any software and hardware bugs and honing the display symbology.

The major focus for developers of Pro Line Fusion now shifts to the synthetic-vision system. The technology recreates a digitized version of the world ahead of the airplane on the cockpit flight displays that looks similar to other SVS offerings from competitors. Collins flew a number of SVS test flights with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 2005 and has been honing its terrain database ever since to provide as true-to-life a presentation of the earth’s surface as possible. Honeywell, Garmin, Universal Avionics and Cobham already field certified synthetic-vision systems for business aircraft, putting the pressure on Rockwell Collins to deliver its SVS on time and with features that will help set it apart.

Based on the early prototypes Rockwell Collins has revealed, the avionics maker is well on its way to meeting the latter goal. In Pro Line Fusion, the highest-resolution SVS data is reserved for depicting the areas around airports, with lower-fidelity data used to fill in the rest of the world. Much of the data used in the Collins SVS database came from NASA’s Space Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which gathered elevation data globally to generate the most complete, high-resolution digital topographic database of Earth yet created.

On the primary flight display, the Collins SVS view shows mountains, bodies of water and a grid pattern on land that provided a good sense of movement above the terrain. Runways will also be shown on the displays, but not taxiways or ramp areas. Rockwell Collins is evaluating a variety of additional presentations, such as translucent domes over airports, but says it will work closely on final configurations of its SVS with customer OEMs.

Rockwell Collins also plans eventually to offer SVS as an OEM option and retrofit for
the Pro Line 21 avionics system, flying in more than 20 aircraft types from the Beech King Air 90 to the Challenger 605. The upgrade would involve some minor graphics hardware modifications and a new software load. Timing for such a program hasn’t been announced, but SVS is unlikely to be made available for Pro Line 21 until it has proved itself as part of the Pro Line Fusion platform.

For the time being, Rockwell Collins is focusing its attention on Waas LPV upgrades of Pro Line 21 and Pro Line 4 airplanes through a number of STC programs. The company was the first to gain a Waas LPV upgrade approval in the Challenger 604 through a contract to upgrade the FAA flight standards branch’s fleet. Rockwell Collins has also announced the completion of a Waas LPV upgrade for the Hawker 750, 800XP, 850XP and 900XP and is working on STCs for the Falcon 2000/2000EX and Falcon 50/50EX, both of which are expected to be in hand early next year.